Friday, August 27, 2010

Passage from Maupiti to Suwarrow

We were thinking about leaving Maupiti on Saturday, August 14th but decided not to after we spoke to Dignity and Sea Mist. Maupiti is a volcanic island in French Polynesia surrounded by a barrier reef with only one navigable pass into its lagoon. On Saturday, the south swell was big, yet both boats, one a Lagoon catamaran and the other a 56 foot Oyster, were determined to leave despite the swell and despite warnings in numerous sailing guidebooks.

Charlie's Charts states:

"Passe Onoiau has a poor reputation because in rough conditions it is hazardous to enter and numerous vessels have come to grief here. Not only is it winding and narrow, but a strong outgoing current also adds to the difficulties in negotiating the channel. With a southerly swell large amounts of water come over the low and poorly defined reef on the southwest side. This water flows out of the pass, resulting in very strong ebb currents and heavy breakers across the entrance; some vessels have been trapped within the lagoon for up to two weeks!"

Shortly after 8:00 am, Dignity reports to us via the VHF radio that they made it through the pass. Helen tells us that she was scared, her husband thought it challenging and her son loved the ride. Shortly thereafter, Jon, the skipper of the 25-plus ton monohull, Sea Mist, says he felt they were a whale plowing through the waves which broke over the bow and into the cockpit.

So we decided to wait a few days for the swell to dissipate. We weren't in a huge hurry except that our three month visa had expired and we had a big box of books to deliver to our friends on Stray Kitty who were waiting for us in Suwarrow, a nature reserve in the Cook Islands just 660 miles away. Besides Maupiti with its warm water, sandy beaches, fresh baguettes and, my favorite, a manta ray fish cleaning station, just a stone's throw away from our boat (Maya will be updating you about our swim with the gentle giants) is a fantastic place to call home.

By Tuesday, the swell had decreased and the winds were predicted to be favorable for the next few days. It was time to hoist our anchor and head out the pass. My heart pounds as we motor towards the break in the waves. Three other boats in the anchorage took their dinghies out to watch us leave.

"Don't give us an exciting show," shouts Jon on Tyee as he waves goodbye.

I see the white foam frothing from the current and the huge breaking waves on either side of the pass, but I can also see the navigable middle.

"It doesn't look that bad," Tim says with hesitancy.

"Stay to port, the water looks smoother over there," I suggest.

The outflowing current takes us fast. We bounce up with the swell and move side-to-side. Minutes after passing the most treacherous part where the breaking waves and the shallow reef are on either side of us, our boat slows down. The current immediately loses its strength and we are now safely out the pass.

"That was a bit anti-climatic," Tim says.

"It was easy," Maya adds with a bit of disappointment.

"That's how it should be," I say smiling.

Less than five miles west from the pass, our fishing line zippppppppps. Tim grabs the fishing pole from its holder; Kai and I furl the jib to slow the boat down, and Maya climbs up on the dinghy davits to spot the fish. Then, I head the boat up and slow her down even more, so that Tim can reel us in a gorgeous green and silver Mahi Mahi, our first catch in almost one month.

As Maupiti disappears in the horizon and nothing but ocean blue surrounds us, I feel excited about moving on, yet sad to leave French Polynesia with its tropical waters, fragrant flowers, fantastic hikes, and delicious French cheeses and baguettes. But what I think I'll really miss, are the kind people we met there. Many of the Polynesians we encountered didn't seem absorbed in the pursuit of things, and were incredibly hospitable and happy to "give from the heart." I think about Lola, a woman we briefly met on the docks in Papeete and she very kindly drove my father to the airport. Then there was the family in Tahiti-iti who gave us fish, and the man in Daniel's Bay who filled our bags with pamplemousses, bananas and limes. They all generously gave without wanting anything in return. I aspire to be that way.

The half moon lights the sky and the pleasant 15 knot southeast breeze keeps us moving at a pace of about 7 knots. It takes me a few days as always to tolerate the lack of sleep on a passage. I have the 10 to 1 am and the 4 to 7 am shift and we have already established our important passage routine: first movie night, then baking day, followed by chocolate day. This rotation makes all four of us look forward to the following day. I'm too tired to watch the movie, episodes of Gilligan's Island - anyone remember that? Kai will sing you the opening song if you'd like.

Our second day, we check in via the SSB radio with the Polynesian Breakfast Net at 8:30 in the morning. We speak with our friends on Victoria who are sailing straight from Bora Bora to Tonga. This morning they're 50 miles from Palmerston, but are not going to stop. There are a number of boats sailing in this area, though as usual, it feels like we're the only ones out here. It's baking day and Kai and Maya make oatmeal cookies. To conserve on propane which we use to heat the oven, we spread the batter over the entire baking sheet and then cut the cookies up afterwards.The pleasant winds continue our third day. We've all been reading a lot during the day. I'm still reading Moby Dick to Maya and on my own, I'm reading Great Expectations and Mr. Pip simultaneously. At night, during my shift, I listen to the audiobook of The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. It's riveting though pretty disturbing.

This third day is chocolate day so I serve the kids hot chocolate and for dessert, we dip bananas in melted chocolate. We even eat a gourmet Mahi Mahi dinner with a special chocolate (no just kidding) orange sauce. Sometimes we do school during passages, but this time, we decided not to. Today the kids created a new game with our Raymarine chart plotter. They pick a place in the world and travel there in various boats, often choosing the fast Gunboat that we visited in Papeete. "I'm exploring China," Maya says as she zooms in and out of Asia on the screen. It's a perfect example of learning without knowing it - Maya and Kai's geography is pretty good these days.

At 7 am on the fourth day, I wake Tim up in the morning. There are dark grey clouds surrounding us and they're about to burst, but it's his turn to take over. He sails us through the rainy squall, while I get my morning nap. In the late afternoon, we watch the epic movie, Australia, and enjoy being mentally taken away to the 1930s with the cowboys and cattle.We arrive in Suwarrow on the fifth day after a wonderful spinnaker sail. James, one of the wardens in the island, told us that it takes work to get here, but once here, we've earned its beauty. It really is a fantastic place. but I'll save that for my next blog entry.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cooking on Kamaya

by Oma

Latkes, for the uninitiated, are grated potato pancakes usually eaten with applesauce in December for Chanuka with the lighting of Menorah candles to celebrate freedom - and with the freedom of being on Kamaya, one can cook anything at any time - so this Oma (Ruth's mother) will explain - cooking Kamaya-style.

Kamaya has a four burner stove, a little oven, a big frig with an opening on the top and a door opening (gently, please) on the bottom. Pans are stored in a bin, together with everything else that can fit, and all around are cupboards well stocked with all the necessities of a proper kitchen. Ruth knows where everything is - and Tim, Maya and Kai are also well informed - especially the location of the peanut butter, jam (bottom frig), cream cheese (top frig) and chocolate (bottom shelf of small cupboard). Cooking is a lengthy pleasure.

Breakfast is often crepes (2 cups milk,(bottom frig) 2 cups flour,(in bin behind on top of pots and pans) bit of water (faucet), butter (top frig) 2 eggs (on top of frig - fresh eggs do not need refrigeration) and a pinch of Tahitian vanilla (port pantry, second shelf). Whip this all together the night before and put it in bottom frig - next morning find frying pan, light the stove (turn on gas with red switch above pots and pans and light gas with gas lighter holding down turn-on knob for 3 seconds). Adjust burner carefully. Kai's crepes are eaten with peanut butter and jam; Maya's crepes need cream cheese and jam; Tim's crepes are eaten with everything except peanut butter and Ruth eats whatever is left.

This detail is for anyone who may think that cooking on a boat is simple.

When there is left-over baguette, we make French toast also called eggy bread for those of you from England. Slice the old bread and dip it in beaten eggs combined with milk and cinnamon. Fry the bread in butter - and serve with peanut butter and jam for Kai, cream cheese and jam for Maya.

English Muffins are a special treat - and Tim's specialty. Kamaya has a special sourdough starter which gets replenished (fed with half water, half flour) when it is used. Mix flour, milk, water and sourdough starter and let it stand overnight to rise. Knead well - add more flour, sugar and baking soda in the morning - put in warm place to rise. (This is easy in the tropics) Divine aroma permeates Kamaya. Breakfast is delayed while anticipation grows. Knead again and make into patties. Light the stove (see above) and bake on the cast iron frying pan. Remember to take out the butter, peanut butter and cream cheese and jam - turn the muffins which have now risen nicely and enjoy.

There is always the packaged granola with milk or yogurt and fruit for the super-hungry who cannot wait, but Kai has a slight disagreement with the granola as it has coconut mixed in.

But---when the pantry is almost empty and only a few potatoes are left - make latkes. "No problem," says Ruth, "it's very quick." Out come the potato peeler and the tiny square grater- so we peel and we grate and we peel and we grate and, of course, we chat and sing. About half an hour later, with a pile of grated potatoes, now turning slightly pink, we put them in a bowl, add an egg, flour and some liquid and beat and beat until the potatoes are sort of solid and fry them. Delicious with, of course, peanut butter or cream cheese and jam. Latkes in Tahiti in July for breakfast.

Breakfast is only one of the wonderful meals that come out of the Kamaya Kitchen - and eating is only one of the grand times this Oma had in July with the Kamaya kids. Life aboard Kamaya is total, full and delicious.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Halyard Swinging

It all began when we met the four kids on Pickles who were swinging off the side of their boat. They were hooked to spinnaker and jib halyards, and they wore a climbing harness around their waist. Soon Kai and I were swinging too!

Pickles got us hooked on it (Uncle Ethan no pun intended!). And luckily my Aunt Tilly came to visit us this month and she brought us four harnesses, two for us, and two for our friends, Patrick and Thomas on Victoria, who Pickles also introduced to swinging. Thank you Tilly!

The basic idea is that the line, technically called a halyard, runs to the top of the mast, allowing you to swing from bow to stern. It is possible to swing all the way to the other side of the boat, and swing with another person. We use spinnaker halyards, to make long runs.

The harness itself is a normal climbing harness, with two leg holes and another strap for the waist. There are holds on the side to clip things to and a sturdy sort of fabric where the halyard clips.

The possibilities for swinging are endless. Sometimes I go upside down, sometimes I swing over the bow, and sometimes I leap from side to side. Kai and I are making up various moves all the time. While swinging, I feel weightless, maybe like the astronauts do in outer space. For some reason I can always tell where to push to aim the right direction. In a sense, I’ve become a pendulum!

Often I warm up with a flip, then go for a push off the stanchion closest to the stern which Kai and I have named, “Baby.” From there I go to a spot where I can push off the winch and lifelines, called “Windows.” Then we jump from a bar on the dodger. And finally we go off the davits. From the davits it’s possible to go over the bow. That is by far the most exciting.

Halyard swinging is a lot of fun. It’s not only fun, it’s my new sport!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Tim!

Nifty Fifty
August 4th, Captain, husband, father Tim turned half a century young. Our fifty year old man started the morning with 50 push ups, 50 sit ups and a 50 minute kayak in Bora Bora's scenic blue lagoon. After a short nap, the birthday boy did a back flip from the stern of Kamaya and tried Maya and Kai's newest sport of swinging in harnesses from the halyards. At sunset, he gathered at the beach for a bonfire with our friends from Victoria, Wonderland and Bamboozle. We then returned to the boat for a delicious dinner and the best chocolate cake ever. A beautiful way to usher in the next half of his century.

Here's a birthday poem I wrote for my birthday boy.

There lives a dashing man named Tim
who keeps his sails perfectly trim
Born in West Berlin
where the German's didn't win
and there was a wall
that was really tall
The son of a spy
shhhh say that, you'll die
His mother a nurse,
who never does curse
Tim has a wonderful life
Even a beautiful wife
A daughter and son
That are tons of fun
They're sailing a big boat
that really does float
Today we'll scream and shout
and run all about
Today is Tim's day
So I'll say
You're so nifty
Now that you're fifty

Looking Back

It took me more than seven years to turn our blog into a hard covered bound book. At first, I was leery of wrapping up our adventure because...